Frank Wildorn's musical Jekyll & Hyde, which had its world premiere at Houston's Alley Theatre in 1990, has, like its titular characters, gone through several changes on its way to its second sit-down on Broadway, coming in April 2013.
But before that, the show is on a pre-Broadway national tour, which is exactly how it happened before the show opened the first time on Broadway, in 1997. That production launched the career of Linda Eder in the role of Lucy, and solidified Robert Cuccioli's status as a Broadway leading man in the dual title roles.
This time around, the roles of the doctor and his bad-boy alter ego are played by Constantine Maroulis, who was a Top 10 finalist on the fourth season of American Idol (the Carrie Underwood season) and has become a marketable name on Broadway, notably in The Wedding Singer and then Rock of Ages. He was in the tour of Rock of Ages that came to Dallas in 2010, too. After that, he starred in the title role of the musical The Toxic Avenger at the Alley Theatre, which is rumored to be aiming for a future life on Broadway.
As Lucy, Canadian R&B singer Deborah Cox follows up her eight month stint in the title role of Aida on Broadway, not to mention a career of performing and touring on concert stages around the world, opening for the Eisley Brothers and R. Kelly, among others. As a young singer, she sang back-up for Celine Dion.
This new production stops for two weeks at the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Winspear Opera House, beginning Dec. 4. TheaterJones talked to Maroulis and Cox in separate interviews, which have been fused together for this Q&A.
TheaterJones: Constantine, you've been on Broadway in The Wedding Singer and Rock of Ages, but the lead role in Jekyll & Hyde is quite different from those. How did you prepare for this task?
Constantine Maroulis: It's two roles, so it's quite a workload. I grew up as an actor with dreams of Broadway, and I've been lucky to have these opportunities and to have these roles. To step into this project after the strength of Rock of Ages has been a great lesson for me. In all honestly, the approach to the work, that doesn't change. You go at it with the same sense of attack, the same sort of objectives. I love it. It's what I do, it's life-or-death for me. This show is very demanding, physically, vocally, emotionally, spiritually. For me, it's a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week show. From the moment I wake up it's with me, until the moment I close my eyes.
Deborah, how did your experience in Aida prepare you for this, as well as your history as a recording and touring artist?
Deborah Cox: I did Aida for eight months on Broadway, I stepped into the role after Toni Braxton. It ignited a spark that had been in me before. I had done regional theater and independent films, but the Broadway stage was very different.
The only thing I took from that experience [of touring in concert] was discipline skills—eating right and staying healthy and getting the rest I needed, because I learned quickly that my body is an instrument. You have to put yourself in the mindset of an athlete; you have to take care of yourself. It's a brutal schedule, with the travel and eight shows a week. … It's really about having a good regimen, staying healthy; lots of sleep and lots of tea.
You both play roles with different vocal demands from what you previously sang on Broadway. Constantine, you did a lot of rock 'n' roll screaming in Rock of Ages.
CM: There were some points [in Rock of Ages] where there's some wailing. I get to explore a more classical edge with this show, particularly with the character of Jekyll. He has more of a heroic, top tenor voice. And Hyde has an edgier, growly rock sound. But I try not to think of it as pure distinctions as far as two characters goes. It's one human being going through this extraordinary journey every night, and he breaks off into these different pieces.
DC: For me, the workload of the show is exactly the same. This role is so complex. She's not physically onstage as much as Aida was, but emotionally and vocally it's just as intense. There's a lot of singing, some big powerful epic ballads. Linda Eder really raised the bar. You really have to be prepared and go in ready to turn it out every night. I want to bring passion and intensity so that everyone can feel it, right up to the balcony.
How did you prepare to play these characters that are so well known from Robert Louis Stevenson's novella and the many film and stage adaptations of it? Did you research bipolar disorder?
CM: I did my own research on split personalities, of medicine in the Victorian time period, even the hygiene of these insane asylums and the diet among this class of people, and how it affected them. All of that is great to explore, but you have to put it aside when you're trying to just focus on the honestly of the scene. It's definitely good information to have, though.
DC: I was familiar with the story. I wanted to create something new and different. Once I heard Frank [Wildhorn]'s music I fell in love with the melodies and the music. When I create a character, I try to build on my own personal background and find connections that are in [me]. She's provocative, she's a survivor, she's in a bad situation and always has to find a silver lining. She's a very complex character.
Did you pull from those qualities in yourself?
DC: Yes. I'm a very optimistic person, sometimes too optimistic. I always try to see the good in a bad situation.
The other side of it is that I grew up with mental illness in my life; I know what it's like to be the person who has to walk on eggshells around the person who is bipolar and not in control of their mental health. It's a terrible thing to live with, to see someone go from being completely normal to being a very dark individual. My father was clinically schizophrenic and my mother had to divorce him early because of it. It was something you didn't talk about, but she went through a lot of emotional stress; she loved him but it was tragic that she couldn't stay together with him. In the show I see a lot of the things that my mother used to describe.
Constantine, did you find yourself living a double life of sorts after you became famous on American Idol? Was there a "famous Constantine" and a "normal Constantine"?
CM: Absolutely, and good observation. I think it's important that we personalize these things with our own life. I think a lot of people that do know me know different sides of me as well. I've mostly maintained my same personality since I was a kid in school, which is probably why I still have a lot of my friends from grade school. Growing up as an actor and doing musical theater and theater my whole life, you learn to take these things on and then move on to the next project. American Idol, the experience of that, it was just another play I was in basically. I knew what I was getting into, and it worked out. I created a nice opportunity for myself to get to do what I really love, which is musical theater and rock 'n' roll.
What will surprise people about you?
CM: I think people don't know that both [Deborah and I] come from acting backgrounds. They think of me as a reality star, they don't know that I went to a prestigious school [a Bachelor's in Musical Theatre from The Boston Conservatory] and have a Tony nomination [for Rock of Ages]. But that's fine, if they come to the show and have a great time, that's what we want.